US Congress wary of arming Libya opposition
WASHINGTON – Top US senators expressed doubts Tuesday about calls to arm Libya’s opposition and said they needed more details about the goals and dangers of any no-fly zone over the strife-torn country.
Asked about delivering weapons to forces arrayed against embattled leader Moamer Kadhafi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein told reporters: “I’m not sure that’s smart, to be candid.”
“We then accept the liability for whatever they do with whatever weapons we give,” said the Democratic lawmaker, who called for a “concerted plan” with US allies to put Libya on notice that Washington was closely watching.
“A showing of power, even if it’s a flyover of jets, shows that we care, and I think we need to show that we care,” stressed the senator, who said she could back a no-fly zone but needed to know more about “the technical aspects of it.”
Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, a Democrat, said he would request a detailed briefing on US military options, including a no-fly zone or arming Kadhafi’s opposition.
“I’d have to see exactly what specific people are we arming and with what, and under what circumstances,” he told reporters.
“All of our options should be on the table, and they are, as far as I know — I mean all the reasonable options, no one’s talking about nuclear weapons, obviously,” said Levin.
“So all reasonable options should be on the table. I don’t think anyone’s talking about land troops going in, but there are some military options that should be considered,” he said.
Pressed on the question of imposing a no-fly zone to prevent Kadhafi from using his nation’s air power to crush his opposition, Levin said “we ought to consider it” but stressed he needed more information from the Pentagon.
“I would have to know what is the target, what’s the mission, and what’s the risk,” he said.
“That requires an assessment of what is their mission: Are they attacking the sites which are attacking civilians? Or attacking troops that are attacking civilians? Are they deterring something? Are they rescuing something? What are the risks to the pilots that are flying those no-fly zones?” he said.
“I’d need to see all of that, and I haven’t seen enough of that.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, a Democrat, played down calls for unilateral US action.
“I think that with UN and NATO, there has to be a concerted decision, not just one country,” he said.